Friday, October 31, 2014

The Experience was Everything

What an incredible run? I don't even know where to begin. I guess to start let me just say how blessed I am to have gotten to witness such an improbable story about a team that simply refused to quit. For Kansas City the last few weeks have represented so much more than W's on a baseball scorecard. For the city it represented rebirth.

Once upon a time, the city of Kansas City was betrayed by the team they loved. Shortly after the exodus, Ewing Kauffman brought baseball back to the city which adored it. Through shrewd moves and a dedication to developing talent from within the Royals developed into the model franchise of professional baseball. This was not only the case on the field, but in a time when cookie cutter parks were the norm, only Kauffman Stadium and Dodger Stadium continue to represent the beauty of their era.

Expressing their love for the team, the fans came in droves. For 18 straight seasons the Royals posted attendance totals above the American League average. This stretch peaked in 1989, when the team averaged over 30,000 fans per game for the only time in the franchise's history. Will this magical season push the Royals past that mark again in 2015?

In 2014, the team averaged 24,154 per game. It isn't unreasonable to expect a jump of about 3-4,000 per game next season. A jump of 3,000 per game would give the Royals nearly 2.2 million fans on the season and would be their highest total since the 1990 season. Even if the Royals could just average 537 more fans per game next season they will top the 2 million mark since the first time since 1991.

What do you think Royals fans? Can we collectively push this team over the 30,000 per game mark for just the second time in team history? It is undoubtedly a tall order, but this city has fallen in love with this team.

For me the October magic brought back memories. I was reminded of school nights when I was supposed to be tucked sound in my bed, but instead would sneak into the living room to watch the game with my dad. It reminded me of the time I got home from school and my dad was parked in the drive way and said to get in, we are going to go watch the Royals take on Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners.

These are the things that the Royals postseason has reminded us of. Sports aren't just about winning or losing. If they were then why would so many people choose a hobby in which every night, half of the participants wind up disappointed?

What this postseason run has reminded me of is the beauty of the game. It reminds me of how integral of a role that it has played in the relationships of my life. While I consider myself to be an extremely analytical fan, over the last year and a half I have wondered if this approach somehow detracts from my enjoyment of watching the game that I love. Expected win percentages and projected records. If we can pinpoint these things so distinctly then why do we even watch? We watch because even if there is an 87% chance that the Royals win between 79-86 games, there is still a 13% chance that they don't. Somewhere in those odds is the opportunity for something incredible to be witnessed. This season the Royals have reminded me of that.

In 20 years, when we look back on the 2014 season, we won't explain that the Royals playoff odds were set at 23% at the start of the season. We won't talk about how at one point during Game Four their series win expectancy stood at 83%. We will talk about the moments that defined the season. We will talk about how this team overcame two deficits of more than 7 games in the division. We will talk about Lorenzo Cain's diving catches, Jarrod Dyson's stolen bases, Alex Gordon's throws, and the two young stud pitchers who shoved it.

More importantly than that we will talk about our personal highlights. The moment in the Wild Card game when the man beside you started sobbing after Hosmer dove in to first to beat out a throw in the top of the tenth. Or the night spent with your dad and brothers in the upper deck during the ALCS. Or the time you were so happy that the Royals came back on Jon Lester that you kissed your friend on the cheek. These are the moments that sports are all about.

The Royals were just the third team in baseball history to lose Game Seven with the tying run on third base when the final out was made. The Royals are also the winningiest team from a single postseason to not earn World Series rings. By all accounts all Royals fans should be heart broken today. But I'm not heart broken. In fact, I feel more love for this team and these fans than I have felt in my entire life and I know one thing for certain.... Just wait until next year.

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